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Traffic Congestion and Highway Construction

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I77 & 85 improvements are badly needed--there is no doubt. Unless things change on the funding horizon, they are a long ways away though.

To give you an idea of how much these major projects cost... the improvements for I-85 from I485 to NC73 is going to cost about $160M. That is about 5% of the entire state transportation budget (airports, rail, ferry, roads, transit, maintenance) in one 7 mile project. The sad thing is that won't even be enough to support the traffic in 2030.

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Why don't they just widen the thing to 26 lanes and be done with for good? That's hyperbole, yes, but all new major roads should be made wider than they need to be.

The highways are some of our most important elements of infrastructure. Infrastructure should receive top priority.

Edited by moonshield

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This is both good news, and oddly bad news about the interregional freeway network in the Charlotte metro region.

http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/news/15713678.htm

Earlier, the planned widening of I85 in Cabarrus County was only between Speedway Blvd and NC73. Now, the widening will go beyond the section with all the bridges and go all the way to Lane St, adding 8 miles to the widening, and go all the way beyond most of the exits serving Kannapolis. The project, if all within the 7 year construction budget, could be built relatively soon, as they'll use Garvee bonds to speed up construction timetables.

The oddly bad news, though, is that it still leaves an hourglass for 5 miles between Lane Street and the already widened 85 in Rowan.

Widening those last 5 miles at the same time as the rest of Cabarrus County's 85 widening would save a lot more money than waiting, and would prevent a bottleneck.

I'm glad to have the widening beyond Kannapolis, but I sure hope they find the money for the remaining 5 miles!

Hopefully, if there is approval for this project to exit 63, it won't be too much to arrange for the "completion" of 85 between Durham and Gastonia. It would just be the section over the Yadkin which almost was done as a design-build project a few years ago (but delayed when NCDOT pulled back the funds), and the 5 mile stretch by China Grove.

At that point, 85 would be at its permanent width of at least 3 lanes per direction, and 4 lanes per direction in the most congested and urban sections.

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The big reason this widening of I-85 has been moved up is the NC Research Campus going up in Kannapolis. If NCDOt is this willing to move highway funds around to accomidate this project then I think they will feel the same way about rail improvements when that time comes.

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I think the research campus has created the rallying focus that helps to get all the politicians and bureaucrats behind doing this. It is ashame that it isn't enough to simply look at the traffic needs of the major artery between the three largest metro areas in the state. But for whatever the reason, at least it is now being planned and funded.

The state has been doing a pretty good job of planning the rail upgrades between Raleigh and Charlotte, with a stop in Kannapolis across from the campus. I'm sure by doing that part now, it will allow for other things like commuter passenger trains between Charlotte Gateway Station and Kannapolis if that ever made sense.

I personally hope that as part of this widening, they put up signs that say "No matter how much you wish for it, this will not be widened again for decades". I think people often ignore that roads are too small, and plan their commute around the notion that they'll be able to drive at full speed on an interstate. But then when it doesn't happen they start blaming government for not serving them.

I think putting signs up saying this is the permanent width of this street, highway, or interstate would help people come to terms with the idea when they plan their home and commute.

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I could have it wrong in Durham a little bit, but if this widening in Cabarrus is done, and the under construction section in Rowan is finished, here is what 85 will look like in the NC piedmont:

The red would be the remaining sections that are still 2 lanes per direction, and are not scheduled for widening in the next 7 years. The light blue are the sections with 3 lanes per direction. All of the 3 lane sections are will have a redundant road, with Green 85 in Greensboro and the southern Triad, and with Garden Parkway in Gastonia. The green is the four lane+ sections in the Charlotte metro area, and between the Triangle and Triad.

post-670-1160412131_thumb.jpg

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I was in Thomasville today and we decided to take I-40 back to Huntersville instead of going down I-85 hell again. If you notice on that map there is a secondary road that connects Thomasville to Winston-Salem, Hwy 109. We took this road over to I-40 and to our amazement, discovered the NCDOT is 4 laneing this highway and there is almost no traffic on it. That money ought to be going to fix the very dangerous I-85. This state has some of the most ass-backwards priorities on road building that I have ever seen.

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I could have it wrong in Durham a little bit, but if this widening in Cabarrus is done, and the under construction section in Rowan is finished, here is what 85 will look like in the NC piedmont:

The red would be the remaining sections that are still 2 lanes per direction, and are not scheduled for widening in the next 7 years. The light blue are the sections with 3 lanes per direction. All of the 3 lane sections are will have a redundant road, with Green 85 in Greensboro and the southern Triad, and with Garden Parkway in Gastonia. The green is the four lane+ sections in the Charlotte metro area, and between the Triangle and Triad.

Thats a good map. I-85 is 8 lanes from US 421 south of Greensboro to the Business 85 Split. I might be wrong but I believe the section between Hillsborough and Durham is scheduled to be widened to 6 lanes. I think this is being held off due to Orange County requiring HOV lanes if the section is widened.

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The oddly bad news, though, is that it still leaves an hourglass for 5 miles between Lane Street and the already widened 85 in Rowan.

Widening those last 5 miles at the same time as the rest of Cabarrus County's 85 widening would save a lot more money than waiting, and would prevent a bottleneck.

I'm glad to have the widening beyond Kannapolis, but I sure hope they find the money for the remaining 5 miles!

EDIT: Sorry guys--got it wrong before. That last section north of Lane St is in Rowan Co, so the portion that is in Division 10 (Cabarrus) is up for widening down to 485 in Meck, so the whole section in Cabarrus would be finished potentially by 2013 or thereabouts.

This state has some of the most ass-backwards priorities on road building that I have ever seen.

Some of it based on pots of money and how you can spend it by law. Some federal funds cannot be spent on certain roadways, like interstates and vice-versa. Of course there is the infamous "equity formula" in NC, which most people in the 3 major urban areas think is a joke. In general I agree that for the average person, it's very difficult to come to terms with how priorities are set. Maybe McCrory should run for Governor so he can divert some serious money to the Charlotte area. :D

Edited by ChiefJoJo

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It's not going to happen in 2010. That section includes what woud be a total rebuild of the US 29/601 interchange, which is going to cost major $$$ to redo. It's got collector-distributor lanes next to the main travel lanes and right next door is the NCRR rail line--which means you have to tear out all the bridges and totally redesign all the ramps. I bet that 5 mile section will cost almost as much as the entire 13 miles from 485 to Lane St.

....

If this is where I am thinking, this has got to be one of the most dangerous places on 85 left in the state as that is a Left Exit instead of one on the right as one heads south. That means that slow traffic has to get over in the left lane where speeding traffic supposed to be. This doesn't sound bad until you are caught in the situation of pulling a trailer with a 55mph speed limit on it and try to make that exit.

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If this is where I am thinking, this has got to be one of the most dangerous places on 85 left in the state as that is a Left Exit instead of one on the right as one heads south. That means that slow traffic has to get over in the left lane where speeding traffic supposed to be. This doesn't sound bad until you are caught in the situation of pulling a trailer with a 55mph speed limit on it and try to make that exit.

If you're talking about the 29/601 exit, it's not a left exit. It is designed a lot like many cloverleaf interchanges are. You have an extra seperated lane to pull off to the right for two seperate exits leading you in different directions. You can also go straight through this extra lane which is divided from the rest of the interstate as a shortcut in bad traffic, although it's not a good idea.

Both on-ramps also connect to this extra lane which then converges back onto 85. This all happens within about a quarter to a half mile. It's not fun if you aren't familiar with it. That entire interchange would have to be completely redone, new bridges, exit ramps and all. That's not an easy feet as there are businesses slammed up against the current exit ramps. I mean, there is no way they could build that interchange in the spot it is without completely demolishing it first. It would have to be rerouted further along 85 to fit.The only way for that interchange to handle the amount of traffic forcast for that area would probably resemble a smaller 485/77 interchange if there were room for it. I'm curious to see how much the cost of this new addition is. That on top of the NCRR mentioned by JoJo are expensive bridges to replace.

The length from I-485 to Highway 73 (exit 55) only includes one bridge that would have to be replaced; that of Poplar Tent Rd. All other bridges seem to be designed in preparation for future widening. I'm still curious whether or not the connections for the future Western bound 485 will be built from 85 along with this project. It would be cheaper and make much more sense to go ahead and lay the foundation for the new exit lanes for it.

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This is the exit JoJo was referring to:

http://local.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&amp...le=h&lvl=15

It's not a dangerous area, but it will be very expensive to rebuild.

My question to JoJo is, if they can muster the money for that section through Kannapolis that is very expensive, why not that last little stretch to avoid a major bottleneck.

My theory on the reason: it is not important to either division to do the last stretch connecting into the other division. That is the very problem that a state-wide transportation system is supposed to avoid. Sigh.

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I edited my earlier post.

The clusterf--- interchange of US29/601 in Kannapolis near the NCRR (not Rowan CO, where the 8 lanes end now) IS a part of the project that MAY be sped up to meet with the I-85 widening from I-485 to NC 73 to the south. I'll be interestes as to how that interchange will be redesigned. I wouldn't want to have to work on that project. :wacko:

So, in summary, I-85 from I-485 in Meck to NC 73 in Cabarrus is scheduled for 2010 construction, and DOT is trying to get the next section of I-85 from NC 73 to Lane St at the Rowan-Cabarrus line on the same schedule so they will be done all at once. If it happens, then basically all of 85 will be at least 8 lanes from Meck thru Cabarrus Co.

The reason that the section going back up to US-29/601 in Rowan (to meet with the improved section of 85) won't be done sooner is because it's in another funding division (Div 9, whereas Cabarrus, Meck, etc are in Div 10), and apparently, Winston-Salem has eaten up a lot of that money on it's own improvements (to I-40, US 52, US 311, etc--I'm guessing here), so there isn't enough money left for I-85 in Rowan. It's a juggling act.

FYI, here's the link to the Div 9 portion of the draft TIP. Note that I-2304 is a project that will improve the dangerous old bridge over the Yadkin River between Rowan and Davidson Counties--note it's unfunded.

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FYI: This article in the Observer discusses the very issues I've been talking about in the recent past. Costs for major building materials (asphalt, conc, steel) have skyrocketed recently, affecting customers: developers, cities, DOT, etc...

I just find it simply hillarious that the Federal Gov't talks about Inflation like its under control to give Wall Street (and the elitist) their boost and then in have seperate State Governments turn around and explain that costs have shot up astronmically. :lol:

The PPI and CPI reports are a crock of crap!!! This country has only yet to see the true net result of inflation, which by its very definition is loose money and credit creation and a devaluation of the dollar.

That is why tuition is going up FOUR TIMES what the Gov't qoutes. That is why the middle class is slowly being eroded from there financial foundation and only one crisis away from Bankrupcy. That is why houses cost $300K,$400K,$500K, and $1,000,000 plus dollars. That is why a person without healthcare can't make ends meet when they get sick. That is why everything from Gas to Food goes up. It is why that Dinner and Movie for two went from $25.00 to almost $100.00.

Debt is out of control and so are costs, so why does the Gov't and the FED always suggest that Inflation is under control and out of the very same mouth complain that they can't pay their own bills.

Simple....they lie!

A2

Edited by A2

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Chief, what do you think about CDOT testing Lime in their asphalt?

Sounds good to me. I think everybody out there is looking for ways to extend the life of their projects any way they can do it. If that means spending a little more money up front to save maintenance and replacement costs then that is a good thing.

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Interesting article about a Supreme Court case being argued today aginst Duke Energy that could have a huge effect on air quality regualtions in the region and nationwide. These plants have a tremendous impact along with highway traffic congestion on Charlotte's moderately poor air quality.

From 1988 through 2000, Duke Energy modernized eight aging, coal-burning power plants in North and South Carolina that allowed each to run more hours and consequently produce more emissions.

Those changes -- and whether the utility should have also installed new pollution controls -- are the subject of a closely watched case being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court today.

The court's decision, expected in early 2007, could affect not only Duke but also plants across the eastern United States that are under pressure from regulators to match plant upgrades with better pollution controls.

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In case anyone thinks the TRiangle gets special treatment from the sttae, check out this article.

State workers will be disciplined or fired for a bungled paving job on Interstate 40 in Durham County that requires up to $30 million in repairs, state Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said Thursday.

So basically, DOT has to repave a freeway that was just re-built about a year ago, and the cost will have to be made up from other local projects.

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Somebody was telling me that Charlotte has a zoning ordinance which requires neighborhood retail at certain intersections. Is this true? If there is such an ordinance, does anyone happen to know if it's available online?

Thank you!

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PoliticalConnections_banner.jpg

This week's News 14 Political Connections show does a 1/2 hour on the state of Mass Transit in North Carolina. They focus mainly on Charlotte and do in depth interviews with Ron Tober and also NC GO! President Bill Carstarphen. It will air at 11am on Sunday on News 14 Carolina.

I had never heard of NC GO! but its purpose is to advocate for transit, mass transit as well as roads. It looks like a good organization and one ya'll might want to check out and support:

logo.gif

http://www.ncgo.org

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In light of all the discussion regarding CATS' cost overruns, I thought I'd attempt to turn a little bit of attention to highway cost overruns.

A brief article in Sunday's Charlotte Observer, "Cost Estimates Rise for Highway Projects", states that the original cost estimate for the next section of I-85 slated for widening (from Speedway Blvd to NC 73) was $139 million. However, the new estimate is reported at $192.4 million. The new figure represents a 38% increase over the original estimate. Additionally, the article reports that a 1.4 mile of section of Independence, from Albemarle Road to Conference Drive, was originally estimated to cost $113.3 million for expressway upgrades. The new cost estimate for the Independence project is $139.7 million.

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